I am in Israel for winter break with the family: four mutant ninja children, my husband and myself living together in an apartment for two weeks: this brings us very close together – two boys share a room and two girls share another. The kitchen, the living and the dining rooms are all one open area. I love the idea of sharing space: the many sounds, smells, clutter and energy. We eat dinners together – meals before dinner are hard to plan with MN Teens who go out to clubs til early in the morning (more on this in a future entry) – and we have taken a few Road Trips to the North and the South of the country for my husband’s work and to visit friends and family. I have learned a few tips for successful Road Trips with Mutant Ninja Teenagers:
1. Agree to disagree on the music you are listening to. Best to stay away from any one member of the family’s particular music list. Here in Israel, the radio stations have no themes, follow no patterns and the dj’s often start to talk in the middle of songs. Very annoying! This results in serious juggling between a handful of radio stations in order to enjoy a menagerie of songs from Led Zepplin to Diana Ross, Adele to The Beatles, and all of this amidst crooning popular Israeli singers and advertisements with catchy tunes.
2. No internet connectivity is essential. MN Teens are calmer, nicer, more attentive and much more communicative if they are not connected to the rest of the world while you are together. The best trips I have taken with my kids in the last few years were the ones where the internet was hard to get or non-existent. My children were all physically and emotionally present; they were part of our family and not part of the world wide web family.
3. Find silly games to play that include everyone. We like 20 questions and guessing and memory games surrounding the alphabet. This is challenging as MN Teens are usually too mature to be bothered by stupid games, but once they join in, they are wonderful.
4. Bring good snacks and stop for good meals. In Israel, a good meal simply needs to be soft and doughy pita bread, creamy and rich humus and a great chop vegetable salad. This is something we can all agree on!
5. Tell stories about when you were young. Even if the stories are met with teasing and taunting comments that naturally roll off teen tongues, all kids like to hear stories about their parents’ past.
6. Patiently remind Teens that “SO!” is not an acceptable answer, statement or thought. Tongue biting may come in handy here.
7. Enjoy the scenery. The beauty of interesting towns, dynamic landscape and breathtaking sunsets are easy to agree upon.
8. Listen. This may be the hardest thing to do. This means not talking, not telling, not advising and not commenting. The best gift a parent can give a child is many times to simply listen. I personally find this very difficult and yet if I succeed in keeping my mouth shut but at the same time paying attention, it is very rewarding.